Upper house members' not so upper class behaviour

Three sitting and three former MPs named in cheating cases in fake air tickets scam

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Charges have been pressed against sitting and former Rajya Sabha members across party lines for allegedly claiming reimbursements using forged bills.

The Central Bureau of Investigation registered six cases against three sitting MPs — D Bandopadhyay of Trinamool Congress, Brajesh Pathak of BSP and Lalhming Liana of Mizo National Front — and three former Rajya Sabha members — JPN Singh of the BJP, Mahmood A Madani of the Rashtriya Lok Dal and Renu Pradhan of the Biju Janata Dal — for cheating and forgery in the Leave and Travel Concession (LTC) scam.

The agency is also probing the role of a few travel agencies believed to have facilitated their travel bills. CBI teams conducted searches at nine places in Delhi and one location in Odisha including the premises of some of the accused politicians. CBI officials claimed that they have recovered incriminating documents from the offices of three travel operators in the capital.

Even though all the MPs remained tight-lipped about registration of the case, TMC leader Derek O'Brien defended his colleague in a tweet saying, "This is a racket run by corrupt travel agencies... my colleague innocent. But we will cooperate to bust travel agency scam."

The case has been registered under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating) and 471 (using forged document as genuine) of IPC and 13(2), 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act. "One of the allegations against them is that they claimed full payment on companion air tickets from Rajya Sabha Secretariat using fake e-tickets for Air India flight," said a senior CBI official.

Members of Parliament in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha are entitled to 34 free air tickets for travel within the country on Air India flights every year. The ticket reimbursements can also be made for the Parliamentarians' spouse or any number of companions or relatives. However, in March 2013, the lid was blown off the LTC scam when Kolkata police detained a passenger at the city airport with more than 600 blank Air India boarding passes. In its preliminary inquiry, the airline's vigilance division stated that manipulating LTC by submitting forged boarding passes and tickets at inflated rates is a widespread practice among government employees.

Following the inquiry report, CBI registered the first FIR in the LTC scam in November 2013, against JD(U) Rajya Sabha member Anil Kumar Sahani for allegedly presenting fake air tickets and boarding pass to siphon off around Rs 9.5 lakh. The CBI had also named Air India customer service agent, Rubaina Akhtar, and a Delhi-based travel operator, Air Cruise Travels Private Limited in the FIR.

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